MP for Hornsey and Wood Green
Haringey Liberal Democrat leader Richard Wilson has written this excellent article in the run up to Christmas. He writes about how small changes – such as joining a credit union and shopping locally – can make a huge difference. I couldn’t agree more! You can read the full article here.
Here’s one of my recent blogs in my role as minister in the Department for International Development. You can also read it on the DFID site here.
Of all the things that have gone viral this year, there is 1 in particular that stood out for me. A Swedish professor, Hans Rosling, produced a survey that tests our assumptions about the progress of the developing world. It was reported on by the BBC a few weeks back, and Rosling’s TED talk has been viewed more than 6 million times.
Many people I spoke to said how surprised they were by some of the answers – like the fact that the number of children in the world will be the same in 2100 as in 2000, or that average life expectancy globally has reached 70.
I’ve been an international development minister for a little over a year now, but some facts and figures still teach me something new.
If you asked me a week ago about the biggest causes of death in the world, I would certainly have thought of malaria, as well as diarrhoea and malnutrition. Globally, heart disease, stroke and cancer are surely up there.
But what I hadn’t realised was the deadliness of smoke inhalation from cooking and heating in homes around the world. At least 2 million people die prematurely due to household air pollution every year, while a recent estimate has put the figure as high as 4 million. Even the lower figure is around 3 times the number of people who die from malaria. And 44% of these deaths are among children.
I learnt just how important this issue is during a visit to New York last week to represent the UK on the advisory board of the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) initiative, chaired by the UN Secretary General and World Bank President.
SE4ALL gathers the UN, governments, the multilateral development banks, the private sector and non-governmental organisations to try and make progress towards universal access to cleaner and more efficient energy by 2030.
This is a huge task, but an essential one. Without access to energy, medicines cannot be safely stored, children cannot study after dark, and businesses cannot prosper.
And if you are a woman or a girl, it is even more essential to have access to clean, affordable energy. Currently, women in Africa can spend 4 hours per day collecting firewood, time that could be better spent learning or working. Over 90% of rapes of women in transitional settlements occur while women are collecting firewood. And women make up 60% of adult deaths from indoor air pollution.
Right now, 1.3 billion people lack access to electricity – around one sixth of the world’s population. This can be because they live in remote areas, because there is no national grid, or simply because they cannot afford it. Burkina Faso, for example, has the most expensive electricity in the world – yet it is 183rd out of 187 in the Human Development Index.
So that is why, last week, I represented the UK government on the SE4ALL advisory board. And that is why I launched a personal campaign focused on improving the lives of girls and women through access to clean energy. You can see my speech to launch the campaign here (at 36:30).
As part of this campaign, I have joined the leadership council of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, an extraordinary organisation with the objective of ensuring 100 million clean cookstoves are in use amongst the poor by 2020. You can hear more about the work of the Alliance from its chair, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, here.
To kick off the campaign I also announced UK support of £7 million to learn more about how to achieve universal access to clean cooking by 2030, and £4.5 million for research through the Gender and Sustainable Energy Network – ENERGIA – to better understand how we can improve women’s skills, economic opportunities, health and safety through access to energy.
With the leadership of such a powerful range of people – from the Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki-moon, to politicians such as Hillary Clinton, from business leaders such as Bloomberg New Energy Finance CEO Michael Liebreich to celebrities such as Julia Roberts – we have a chance to change the world. We can make it cleaner, brighter and safer.
We need to make clean energy access the next thing to go viral. And together, perhaps, we can remove one of those facts and figures that still have the power to shock and surprise.
Here’s an email I recently sent out to local residents on keeping warm this winter. You can sign up to receive similar updates here.
News reports and weather forecasts predict a very cold month ahead for us. So now more than ever, a warm and well-insulated home is vital – particularly for the elderly and vulnerable people.
There are a number of Government grants and discount schemes to help people with the cost of their winter bills, and organisations that give out free advice. Here’s a summary:
The Winter Fuel Payment: anyone born on or before the 5th January 1952 is entitled to a tax free payment from the Government, ranging from £100-£300 to help with heating bills. This year, you should receive the payment automatically – but do let me know if you haven’t and I will chase it up.
The Warm Homes Discount is run jointly by the Government and energy companies, and gives recipients a £135 discount on bills. Find out if you’re eligible and check if your supplier takes part in the scheme.
There are also discounts or subsidies available if you want to add insulation to your property or convert to greener, more efficient energy. This Government energy grants calculator may be helpful in working out exactly what you’re entitled to.
The Home Heat Helpline offers free, impartial advice to people on low incomes who are worried about their energy costs and staying warm during winter. Their free contact number is 0800 33 66 99.
Finally, the Energy Saving Trust also provides tips on how to use energy more effectively, and advice on switching providers to get the best deal.
I hope this is helpful. If you have any questions about the above, or if I can be of help in any other way, just let me know.
Here’s my latest Muswell Flyer article on housing in Haringey. You can read this article and previous articles online here.
Many years ago, I got a mortgage for my first flat (off the Archway Road) – which enabled me to get a first foot on the property ladder. Social housing for those in need was also relatively easy to come by.
The same certainly cannot be said in Haringey today. Unfortunately, housing here is a huge problem – particularly for those on the Council waiting list, those already in social housing, and young professionals and families struggling to save a deposit for a first home.
The waiting list for social housing has over 10,000 families on it. There are simply too many people in need and not enough houses available.
The reason for this is twofold. Firstly, Margaret Thatcher’s policy of selling off council homes without reinvestment in replacement housing; and secondly, Haringey Council not building any new homes in 25 years.
There are also problems with the quality of social housing. I think social housing should be attractive and built to last – not neglected and run-down. Yet, every week, I am contacted by residents who desperately need repair and maintenance work, and are just not getting it.
There are serious problems with Labour-run Haringey’s housing arm – Homes for Haringey. News recently broke that staff claimed over £3.7million in bonuses in less than two years. This was just shocking – this was public money which could have gone towards refurbishing 300 local homes.
It’s this type of behaviour that the local Lib Dems are fighting against in the local elections next year, as they attempt to take control of Haringey Council from Labour.
In the private rental sector – there are also young people and families unable to save for a deposit to buy their first home due to high rents. And with rents and property prices on the rise, it can be daunting and difficult for first time buyers.
So, with the lack of building, bonus scandals and wastefulness, and rising property prices, people in Haringey are up against it.
But it’s not all bad news.
The Coalition Government has introduced measures to ease the crisis. The new Help to Buy scheme is giving young people the chance to get on the property ladder – by offering them new homes if they have a 5% deposit. The rest of the deposit will be covered by a Government loan.
Council tenants are still able to buy their homes – but now, Councils must reinvest the money in social housing, to ensure we have a rolling stock.
The Lib Dems in Government have also delivered more affordable housing and succeeded in bringing empty homes back into use. We’ve also given Councils extra money towards decent homes work – to improve the quality of social housing.
And we are starting to see some changes. Housing supply is now at its highest since the end of the unsustainable housing boom in 2008, with 334,000 new homes built over the last three years. The number of first-time buyers is also at a five-year high!
I declare an interest in Hornsey High Street. My constituency office is based there, above the Three Compasses pub! As such, I spend a lot of time on the High Street – popping into the shops and cafes and talking to local residents.
The old Depot site on the High Street (almost opposite the pub) has been a point of contention for many years. Parts of the site have been derelict since 1998 and the land is desperately underused, as Labour-run Haringey Council has continuously failed to strike a suitable deal with a developer.
Now, a new developer is on the scene. St James has put in a planning application to build a Sainsbury’s supermarket, 400 homes, a car park and a gym on the site. A development of this scale will have an impact on our local area, and it’s vital that local residents and shopkeepers get to have their say.
That’s why I called a public meeting, held last Friday, to give residents a platform and a chance to put their views to both Sainsbury’s and one of the project architects. St James and the Labour councillor in charge of planning were invited to attend, but both declined – a shocking decision in my opinion.
Despite this, almost 150 residents attended. It is clearly an application they feel very strongly about, and Sainsbury’s and the architect faced some very tough but valid questions.
There were some serious concerns about the effect of the development on local trade. Thankfully, the plans for a Sainsbury’s cafe have already been withdrawn, but the traders were still concerned that the supermarket alone will pose a threat to their livelihoods.
Residents were also concerned about the increase in traffic, and whether local services such as doctors’ surgeries and schools could accommodate hundreds more adults and children. There are also issues with the height of the development and the views of Alexandra Palace it will block.
I asked a question about the quality of new accommodation. New housing is much needed, but it must be built to last. St James built the New River Village development, and worryingly, I am currently fighting for residents there who are experiencing damp and flooding in their properties.
Based on the strength of feeling at the meeting, I think all of these concerns need to be addressed before the local community will support this development.
The Development Control Forums – which Haringey Council and St James have to attend – are taking place on the 26th and 27th of November at Grieg City Academy. This is the next chance for residents to find out more, voice their opinions and get some answers.
Labour-run Haringey Council will then make the final decision on the application, most likely in January.
The Haringey Liberal Democrats and I have been asking residents for their views already, and will continue to do so. We have recorded the views from the public meeting and will be representing them in our response to the planning application consultation. To add you voice – contact me.
The Big Lottery Fund was set up to give a financial boost to projects that support communities and those in need across the country. For every £1 spent on the lottery, 28p goes to good causes, with 10 – 11p going to the Big Lottery Fund. To date over £4 billion has been distributed by the fund.
I would like to extend my sincere congratulations to all the local recipients of a Big Lottery Grant this year. Each one does fantastic work within the community, and they deserve every penny they get.
Without further ado, the recipients in my Hornsey and Wood Green constituency are:
- Family Action– To fund a continuing project that aims to reduce health inequalities in the Congolese, Somali, and Vietnamese communities.
- Ambitious About Autism – The money will help continue support for people with autism and their families in the local area, including specialist education through the Treehouse School.
- The Turkish Women’s Philanthropic Association of England – With the new funds, the Association will purchase computer equipment and provide basic ICT training for their members.
There have also been a number of grants awarded to groups in other parts of Haringey, including Nene Tereza Ltd, The Golden Jubilee Project, Jump Fitness for All, Park View School, Haringey Independent Cinema, Back to Earth Projects Ltd, Smart School Community, High Cross United Reform Church, and MyAfrik International.
Of course, there are many other community groups who haven’t received awards this year, but who may be eligible. Several programmes are currently open for awards of £300 – £500,000, and it is well worth checking to see if a group you know or work for could benefit. Details of these schemes can be found at www.awardsforall.org.uk and www.biglotteryfund.org.uk.
Once again, congratulations to all the winners, and keep up the good work!
English may be the official language here in Sierra Leone, but the majority communicate every day in Krio, a mash of English, Portuguese and French with an African grammar. Because there are some English words peppered around in there, you think you can follow along (until you can’t). Today I’ve been hearing about ‘small-small’. DFID runs some big projects which impact on millions, of which I am very proud. But sometimes it is good to be reminded of the small-small.
Take Mama, who I met today in Makeni with Street Child. Supported by DFID, Street Child found 2 of Mama’s children on the street – she did not have the money to feed them. Our project has provided her with a grant of around £30 for a business, promising to match whatever she could save from the business in 10 weeks and mentoring her. Mama says her business, selling firewood, is small-small. But it means all her children eat, and go to school. The business continues without further help.
Take a small DFID pilot project in Makeni, attempting to prove that waste can promise wealth. Among the small recycling projects, I visited a group of women weaving with strands of plastic bags. A woman had been out from Ethiopia with the idea, spent a week teaching the technique and left some knitting needles behind. When I turn up, there are 6 women around the table, some disabled, who are knitting the most beautiful things. That idea, those needles, are small-small. Their impact for those women and the local environment is not.
DFID’s work in Sierra Leone will help around 1.4 million people gain access to clean drinking water. Picture: Giacomo Pirozzi/Panos
In Sierra Leone, DFID will ensure that by 2015, 1 million more children will be protected from malaria by sleeping under nets; and we’ll help around 1.4 million people gain access to clean drinking water.
UK aid can be significant sums aimed at tackling major national and international problems. As it approaches the local level, it can be split into small-small packages. But I never cease to be proud of the impact it can have. It can be huge.
I am currently in Sierra Leone in my role as International Development minister. Here is a blog, which you can also read on the DFID site.
To enter Freetown from its airport, boating across the river is your best option. The view of Freetown as the sun sets over the water is breathtaking, but one sadly seldom enjoyed by many from outside the country. Certainly from the UK, Sierra Leone is no tourist hotspot, known best for its recent civil war that ended only 12 years ago. And this is a shame, because the depth of the UK’s relationship with this place is amazing.
Its capital, Freetown, was established by British philanthropists in the 18th century as a settlement for repatriated and rescued slaves. It’s a proud part of the Commonwealth. And more recently, the UK played a pivotal role in ending the civil war.
Importantly, we didn’t then just leave. Because despite its beauty, Sierra Leone is one of the poorest places in the world, with all the problems you might expect as a result. One in 6 children will not see their fifth birthday here. Maybe one tenth of the population have consistent access to electricity.
A child receives a vaccination at a district hospital in Makeni, Sierra Leone. Picture: Giacomo Pirozzi/ Panos
Yet with the UK’s help, slow but steady progress is being made. Our combined military, diplomatic and development efforts have played a large part in bringing peace and stability, including 3 democratic elections. In a country of around 6 million, DFID’s investment in health and education will (between 2010-2015) put over 200,000 children through primary school, and provide life-saving care to over 800,000 under 5′s.
And Sierra Leone is beginning to find its feet. The economy is stuttering back to life as iron ore exports have come back on line for the first time in 30 years.
After the brutal civil war, there’s a long and bumpy road to recovery ahead for Sierra Leone (a bit like the track to the jetty from the airport). But with the UK’s help, it’s started strong. I hope in time more people will get the chance to see its beautiful scenery and people.
The Friends of the Parkland Walk (FPW) are launching the biggest ever clearance operation, and they need you!
FPW is looking for between 200-300 volunteers to help remove the rubble, waste, and litter that has accumulated in the Parkland Walk over a number of years.
Equipment will be provided and any level of help would be appreciated. I am very pleased to support FPW’s work, and I am sure that this will be a productive and enjoyable event. If you have some free time, please do go along and help tidy up this fantastic community asset.
There will be four sessions over the weekend:
Saturday 16th November 10:00 – 12:30 and 13:30 – 16:00 meeting at the meadows on Florence Road.
Sunday 17th November 10:00 – 13:30 starting at the Cranley Gardens entrance.
Sunday 13:30 – 16:00 meeting on the walk behind Milton Park.
Further information can be found at http://www.parkland-walk.org.uk/events/the-big-clean.html or by contacting FPW via email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The film explores the pros and cons of the Stop and Search procedure, using humour to bring to light many of the common concerns raised by those affected.
Exposure’s film aims to bridge the gap between young people and the police by showing how both sides feel about stop and search, and by giving advice on how to avoid conflict.
The film will be shown on 21st November from 1.15pm at the West Green Learning Centre, N15. Seats are limited, so anyone interested should contact Flo Codjoe on 020 8883 0260, or email@example.com
If you want more info on Lib Dem policy on stop and search – just contact me.